Inspirations

Many people become designers by having something capture their emotions while functioning well, then they adapt it.

When done with consideration to one’s unique space, users, and the originator, that isn’t plagarism. Everything is inspired by something else. Very often we see other built designs, but ultimately that comes from something else in the natural world.

At the Desert Botanical Garden last week, I did that very thing.

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Durable Barriers: steel posts and angle irons allowed to oxidize, as well as wire mesh and welding, combine a simple effect and rustic ambiance; I like both.

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While the round stones-impressed-into-cement-in-a-handrail isn’t practical financially, using rebar verticals to allow plants to grow behind or through is desirable. Many of you know my appreciation of soft and sharp in nature or gardens.

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Opaque Panels: sometimes these are taller than me, and other times like this they are short. No matter, what a great backdrop to create a focal point.

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Generous Desert Forms: one may get “that looks like Phoenix…” (in a childish whine) from those who reject anything not Denver X Monet X tundra. I have. But part of regionalism is abstracting wild forms into a small vignette.

Round cactus pads dancing between vertical, stoic yucca trunks and some other spots of spikiness is the condensed version of countless land areas in my region. So, why not amp up our spiky sparsness?

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I now live where regionalism is more acceptable. Those yuccas and cacti are all Chihuahuan and not remotely Phoenix (Sonoran), so they borrowed from us! While they work handsomely there, they work even better in Las Cruces.

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Informal Hedging: softening or blocking the background, to enclose and privatize a space all year must be done without losing existing scenes and borrowed views. Such a balance will be a challenge in more than one area of my compact property.

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While I had several Rhus ovata / Sugarbush at my first Albuquerque house, they were not used at my last house, so they get a leg up! This plant’s crisp, evergreen foliage and colors always got accolades.

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Unusual Fillers: another specific plant packed in more than I would have thought grabbed my attention. Euphorbia antisyphillitica / Candelilla is native to lower elevations in the Chihuahuan Desert. Rarely used in southern New Mexico’s valley, it sustained only a little freeze damage at -5F to +5F in 2011, so this could fill in some tight planting areas I have. Maybe.

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Water: on an incredibly balmy April day in 2012, this water feature told a story better than on my chilly, rain-washed “winter” day as I wore a bulky jacket. The form and warmer weather lighting nails down habitat related to the architecture and ecology. The bird might agree, too.

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Many unbelievable situations conspired to get me out of probably never doing landscape design for others again, but that changes when it’s for me! I can see clean lines that reflect my modest home’s form, including a water feature with sculptural, spreading desert plants that thrive where I am.

So, ignore saguaros, palo verdes, or other tender, low desert fare. That tends to come with the territory in Phoenix.

Yes, there will be Gambel’s Quail, Curvebill Thrasher, Roadrunner, and several species of hummingbirds in my garden, especially if I can splurge on such a water feature.

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Crunchy and Permeable: with only 10 percent of the space here, I’ll have less of this same thing, probably with larger 3/4 inch crushed rock so it’s less messy when walking inside onto carpet in the office to change the song, or the bedrooms.

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Imagine the warm, crunchy sound walking on it, with the ability of the surface to absorb storm water to benefit tree roots. I’ll have less impervious paving than I did at the last house.

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Light It Up: in summer, darkness means it’s bearable to be outside. Even if I momentarily spot the glowing eyes of a mountain lion or the careful pace of a coyote watching me on the grill. And at any time of the year, it’s nice to extend indoor living out, even if one bundles up to do so during our drive-by winter.

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Seen On the Way to My Other Work

I first drove past this landscape in 2011. I was amazed at the sheer amount of mostly spiky plants used. Since, the owner has only added more and grouped some plants differently.

In face, this is where I sometimes park to do construction observation work at a nearby residence.

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Potted Yucca recurvifolia and Hesperaloe parviflora, in-ground a specimen Agave salmiana, a Ferocactus wislizeni, and some Yucca thompsoniana clumps.

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This looks striking as always against tiled, Mexican-Mediterranean hybrid architecture seen occasionally in a few higher end neighborhoods in El Paso.

My main question is the use of so much large rock much instead of something finer textured or smaller in size? That would allow many plants to show up more. Also, sunken grades might help hold in water to benefit the plants and still provide terrain interest.

I cropped out the hose, but hand-watering by hose might be the irrigation method over drip. I’m not sure.

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Echinocactus grusonii overload, of course. Some Yucca faxoniana appear in back, to add height and show well against the home’s shady portal.

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On the east side, there are some great examnples of Opuntia engelmannii and O. lindheimeri growing among Dasylirion wheeleri and Agave parryi.

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And more golden barrels and yuccas.

Even a Larrea tridentata is growing against the wall, it’s wispy form adding softness to the sharp Yucca thompsoniana or Y. rostrata. And more E. grusonii.

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In this spot, I can’t tell if the greener sotol is Dasylirion leiophyllum or D. acrotrichum. And what looks like a relative of Yucca faxoniana, though some will attribute the smaller head to Y. torreyi…too even of foliage growth for the latter, methinks.

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I really enjoy this landscape, ahead of many with vast lawns and mesic plants. A few houses in this neighborhood are starting to update their front yards with lower water-use and native plants.

This landscape is already there, and then some.

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8/20/18 weather:
96F / 73F / T or 36c / 23c / T

Phoenix Off-Tour

I was taking a client to a good place for breakfast before the first home on a garden tour, but the entire center I often frequented while in Phoenix was closed shut.

The landscape was still in decent condition, though the wildflowers once growing there are gone from poor maintenance.

Entering, before we learned the bad news.

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On axis: a native Prosopis torreyana underplanted with Agave parryi var. truncata and Echinocactus grusonii.

Leaving, also on axis: Carnegia gigantea with a solo Agave americana.

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I knew I lived in the wrong place when those who knew little about what I had learned years earlier as a 19 year old college sophomore argued with me. Design principles like axis or repetition seem so logical.

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At either end of Scottsdale Road is this sign making a bold claim. I’m for anywhere making bold claims that have backing, and this does.

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Agreed.

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